But these efforts led to public violence in Thokoza outside Alberton this week. Residents went on a rampage after the Red Ants and police went to Imbeliseni informal settlement looking for illegal electricity connections on Monday.
Gauteng police spokesman Captain Godfrey Maditsi said three people were arrested yesterday in connection with the violence. The arrests came after residents barricaded roads.
Maditsi said the roads had been cleared and the situation was under control. “The suspects will appear at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court today,” he said.
“Rubber bullets were fired at the residents after they started to attack the Red Ants,” said Maditsi. He said residents threw stones at passing motorists and looted tuckshops in the area.
The Ekurhuleni metro said that more than 17 000 illegal electricity connections had been removed since the campaign started two months ago. Municipal spokesman Sam Modiba said illegal connections cost the metro about R36-million per annum.
The City’s task team – comprised of the Red Ants, Combined Private Investigators, the Ekurhuleni Metro Police’s cable theft and public order policing units, SAPS and the metro’s energy department – had seen to the removal of over 17 000 electricity connections within its jurisdiction, east of Johannesburg, since the drive began two months ago.
Spokesman Sam Modiba said illegal connections were costing the municipality R36-million per annum – an average of R3 million per month. “This is money that could otherwise be channelled into service delivery projects.”
“The connections are a serious safety hazard, with a high likelihood of killing innocent people, especially children,” said Modiba.
This year alone, he said, four children were killed in Dukathole, near Germiston, by illegal connections, while a KwaThema man was electrocuted while trying to steal electricity last month.
And while the R36m loss represents just 0.5% of the metro’s annual electricity revenue, Modiba says that the amount is “significant and can easily increase in the absence of strict action”.
On deterrents to residents reinstating removed connections once the task team has moved on, Modiba said illegal connections are often driven by syndicates.
“Illegal connections will be constantly monitored and removed in Ekurhuleni and we appeal to the communities to help us in the fight by reporting incidents to our call centre on 0860 543 000.”